In 1989, Charles and Rose Ann Finkel took over Liberty Malt Supply Company, founded in 1921, and opened The Pike Place Brewery in the La Salle Hotel under the Pike Place Public Market—a landmark spot in Seattle and one of the longest running continually operated farmers' markets in the US. The Finkels have a history in beer going back to the late Seventies, when Charles and Rose Ann were importing European beers, working with breweries such as Orval, Samuel Smith, Pinkus and Ayinger, and seeking marketing and distribution arrangements with American breweries. Favoring beers that paired well with food, Pike Place Brewery launched with their Pale Ale and soon followed with their XXXXX Stout. In 1990 their Scotch-style ale, Pike Kilt Lifter, was introduced and is today a top seller for the brewery.
In 1995 Pike moved to a new location next to the market and changed name to Pike Brewing Company. The current location is a multi-level brewery, pub, restaurant, and beer museum.
From the restaurant, you can get a close look at the brew kettle, watch the bucket elevator carry the crushed malt up to the grist case and view room after room full of memorabilia and descriptive displays about beer's history, starting with Mesopotamia and leading up to the current beer scene in the Pacific Northwest. The Pike brewery is a wonderful resource to learn about the ingredients that go into making beer as well as the brewing process.
Three levels down, you'll find the brewing operations—the giant fermenters, bright tanks, and the bottling line. While I was visiting there was a truck dropping off raw materials (such as bags of malt) that would leave with kegs and cases of beer ready for distribution. In addition, the truck would be removing spent grain which eventually finds its way to local farms to be used as cattle feed.
The range of Pike beers were developed to pair well with food. Based on the same top-fermenting English yeast they got from Fullers Brewery in 1989, you will find a core line up of ales, porters, stouts, Scotch ales and barleywines. In addition you can enjoy unusual options like the Monk's Uncle or Dry Wit, or take it up a notch with Tripel Kriek XXX Cherry Ale, which has been aging in wine casks.
Want to see what's going on behind the scenes at Pike Brewing Company? Check it out in the slideshow above.